Zeesy Raskin 12 June 2007 To Life! A Celebration of Vermont Jewish Women
Zeesy Raskin's paternal grandparents journeyed from Russia to settle in Israel before immigrating to the United States at the turn of the century. The small Jewish community in Barre Vermont was advertising for a kosher butcher and a teacher. Her grandfather found employment there. He and his wife raised seven children. All four sons became Rabbis, including Zeesy's father.
Producer DAVAR: The Vermont Jewish Women's History ProjectAudio/Visual sound, color
In Chabad Lubavitcher tradition a rabbi is someone who devotes his life to studying Torah, Jewish laws and traditions. Chabad rabbis do not necessarily lead a congregation but may work like Zeesy's father who was in the real estate business.
Zeesy was born in 1962 and grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn surrounded by a close-knit Chabad community. From pre-school through teacher's seminary, including a year in Israel, Zeesy attended Beth Rivkah religious schools. 'Throughout my school years, besides having a good Jewish education, the other half was secular subjects. We needed to graduate high school with a New York State Regents diploma. Zeesy was trained to teach in Chabad schools.
Zeesy's life centers on her family and her husband's Chabad congregation in Burlington. They have eleven children and all have been home schooled. Zeesy runs Gan Yeladim pre-school and the Gan Israel summer day camp. Both the school and camp welcome children from throughout the Vermont Jewish community.
Her home is a center for Shabbat services, Chanukah parties and Passover seders. Zeesy's kosher kitchen is a very modern place to cook and bake. She has a Magic Mill mixer, four burners and two ovens and a big freezer downstairs, but would never bring anything that wasnât kosher into her home. 'Modern conveniences, yes, but within Torah Law.'
Jewish women gather at her home to study Torah on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of each new Hebrew month. They also come together to celebrate Tu B'Shevat, the holiday of trees. Zeesy regularly welcomes women into her home to use Vermont's only mikveh, a dedicated bath used for ritual purification.
Zeesy's Polish family lost many relatives in the Holocaust. She and her husband feel that the land of Israel is very important to them, "our land, our special land." They visit as often as they can, taking the children to visit the historical and holy sites.
Zeesy Raskin's photo credit: Karen Pike, www.kpikephoto.com
This project was made possible in part by major grants from the Aviva Spring Foundation, Vermont Humanities Council, Damon and Marilee Buffum, Vermont Community Fund and many other individuals and organizations who have supported DAVAR through their donations.